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Spoiler-Free Review Of 'Rogue One' From A Geeky Fan

"Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" looks to a group of rebel fighter who try to steal the plans for the Empire's new weapon, the Death Star.
LucasFilm Ltd.
"Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" looks to a group of rebel fighter who try to steal the plans for the Empire's new weapon, the Death Star.

The Force is strong in first 'Star Wars' stand-alone anthology film

Spoiler-Free Review Of 'Rogue One' From A Geeky Fan
Spoiler-Free Review Of 'Rogue One' From A Geeky Fan GUEST: Beth Accomando, arts reporter, KPBS News

For the second year in a -- in a row, there will be a new Star Wars movie in December. The latest is called Rogue One a Star Wars story. It opens on Friday but there will be Early's earnings on Thursday night. Here's a little of the trailer which introduces us to a new character in the Star Wars universe. State your name for the record. Forgery of Imperial documents, possession of stolen property, aggravated assault, resisting arrest. On your own from the age of 15. Wreckless, aggressive, and undisciplined. You got to see what one yesterday. Display to us what this film is exactly. Is not being described as a prequel or a SQL. This is something new that Lucasfilm is starting. Is what they are calling the standalone anthology. In the Star Wars timeline, this film will come immediately before a new Hope. It's all about the rebel fighters who attempt to steal the plans for the Empire's new weapon, the death Star which we have already seen. They are still in the plans in order to discover its Achilles' heel. The end of this film can be cut up against the beginning of a new Hope. What did you think of the film? Is it a worthy entry quick I loved it. When I went to see the film yesterday my heart was pounding and racing. I was just hoping it would be good, and it was. When the force awakened came out last December it was what I call the healing film that Star Wars fans needed to let us know that the dark transcended. After suffering through the digital cleanup and enhancements of the original trilogy and the prequels, there was a little bit of rough going for Star Wars fans. We wanted a film that we didn't have to feel embarrassed about saying that we liked it. The force awakened was that. It was in a film that I fell in love with as much as it was a relief to be able to see that. Rogue One is a film that makes a fan girl and be totally happy. I think it's because Gareth Edwards is really a fan boy as well. I saw him at Star Wars celebration last year and he talked about his 30th birthday when he went to Tunisia to go to the location where they shot some of the scenes. You probably die so he could make blue band the milk and trinket in Tunisia. And one of the early scenes, there is blue band the milk. He is totally a geeky fan like myself. What about someone who doesn't have any Star Wars knowledge? Could someone who's never been to a Star Wars movie enjoyed it quick Yes. There is a narrative that's easy to follow. If you are a fan or if you've seen at least the New Hope and Empire, you're going to get a lot more enjoyment out of this and there's a lot of details that only fans will get it. The references feel a lot more organic than in the force awakened. It seems to flow rather than being a checklist of things they wanted to get in the film to make the fans happy. One of the things that won me over is in the original Star Wars film, the controls that you turn on to make the at the store fire was this old Grass Valley switcher. An old piece of video equipment. Was Star Wars gets its upgrade with all these new effects in Rogue One I wondered if they would make it too fancy. But that Grass Valley switcher was back in amongst all the bells and Whistler's -- Whistles and I felt very satisfied as a fan. So talking about the visuals, what about the visual affects quick This film looks great. He really use the frame well to get that sense of scale. You really feel how oppressive the Empire is and how big the at the store is and how big his Imperial cruisers are. He has a good sense of making these first revealed. The first time we see the at the store, the first time we see in Imperial cruiser, it really satisfies the Star Wars fan. To get the sense of anticipation and when it finally comes out, you are like, oh, yes. Find a. He had a great sense of using that space of the big screen and making it work. It was ridiculous. I can totally see why Trump supporters felt the need to call for a boycott of the film. They had to actually manufacture of fake news story saying that the filmmakers had changed the ending after the election to make it anti-Trump. The thing is, you don't have to change anything about this film or any of the Star Wars films to make it anti-Trump. The Star Wars films have always been this allegory about fighting and Empire, fighting a tyrannical leader, fighting something that's repressive. Didn't have to change anything. Take a listen to the speech that Felicity Jones gives trying to rally the rebels. If the Empire has this kind of power, what chance do we have? What chance do we have? The question is what choice? One, hide, scatter your forces. The time to fight is now. Although Rogue One wrapped shooting before the election being over, it couldn't be more resonant or timely are on the money right now What did you think of the performances quick They were great. This was a great ensemble. This cast was the first. There was a nice mix. Forest Whitaker, Diego Luna, it was a nice the first cast and they understood the way to make this work is that you need to play it straight and you need to be sincere. They need to believe in what they are doing to make us believe also. He was great as the blind Jedi fighter. He really gets a kick some [ NULL ] in this film. Felicity Jones is very appealing. Allen today gets fun to have -- be a new android. There as far as Witherspoon -- Forest Whitaker. How does he do quick He does a great job.'s background is interesting. He made this little film called monsters it was about a half $1 million. He went straight from that to the $160 million Godzilla. I think he felt a little lost in that film. But were Rogue One, he seems to have a better fit and his love for the Star Wars franchise is allowed to shine. He really understands how important it is to have that earnestness to make us believe in the world that he is creating Where you rank this film quick It comes right after Empire and the New Hope. Is right in the tales of those. Everything else is picking up the dust after that Rogue One opens his Friday.

Spoiler-Free Review Of 'Rogue One' From A Geeky Fan
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is the first of the Star Wars standalone anthology films, and it made this geek girl grin from ear to ear (and each ear had a Death Star earring dangling from it).

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is the first of the Star Wars standalone anthology films, and it made this geek girl grin from ear to ear (and each ear had a Death Star earring dangling from it). Spoiler-free review ahead.

Just a geeky fan

When I went to see “Rogue One” Monday morning, I did not go as a professional film critic but rather as the 16-year-old geeky fan that I am inside.

As I drove to the theater I felt my heart racing and my hands were just a little shaky. I was experiencing a mix of tension and excitement that was different from what I felt going to see J.J. Abrams’ “The Force Awakens” last year. When I went to see that sequel, it was more about trepidation and praying that he just wouldn’t screw it up.

Felicity Jones and Diego Luna star as rebel fighters trying to steal the plans of the Death Star in "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story."
LucasFilm Ltd.
Felicity Jones and Diego Luna star as rebel fighters trying to steal the plans of the Death Star in "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story."

Companion viewing

"Star Wars" 1977

"The Empire Strikes Back" (1980)

"Monsters" (2010)

"Force Awakens" vs. "Rogue One"

“The Force Awakens” was the healing film “Star Wars” fans needed to let us know that the Dark Times had ended.

After suffering through George Lucas’ digital clean up and enhancement of the original trilogy, and then his three prequels with Jar Jar Binks, we just needed to know that there could be a “Star Wars” film we could like without feeling embarrassed or without having to make excuses for. At the end of “The Force Awakens” it wasn’t love for the film that I felt as much as it was relief — relief that it wasn’t bad and that I had genuinely enjoyed it.

But it was by no means great and it ranked just about on par with “Return of the Jedi.”

But Gareth Edwards’ “Rogue One” is the true fanboy film that this geek girl was waiting for. Abrams is no doubt a “Star Wars” fan, but Edwards is a true fanboy

When I saw both men at Star Wars Celebration last year, Abrams tried to convey his love for “Star Wars” but he never convinced me that he was the kind of fan that waited outside Toys R Us at midnight for a toy release or spent ridiculous amounts of time making a costume or setting up a Hoth diorama for Christmas.

Edwards, on the other hand, absolutely made me believe that not only was he a fan but he was a geeky fan like me. He showed photos of his 30th birthday when he went to Tunisia to visit the location where Uncle Owen’s scenes were shot, including a photo of him drinking blue milk because he brought blue dye with him. Now that’s a real fan. Let me put it this way, if Edwards had directed "The Force Awakens" Chewy would have given Leia a hug after Han died.

Familiar weapons of the Empire make an appearance in "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story."
LucasFilm Ltd.
Familiar weapons of the Empire make an appearance in "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story."

Expanding the 'Star Wars' universe

His “Rogue One” expands the “Star Wars’” universe in a highly satisfying manner. Its look and tone are a little different, a little darker, but it feels like a perfect companion piece to “A New Hope” and the subsequent “The Empire Strikes Back.”

“Rogue One” references the original trilogy but does so in a manner that feels organic rather than forced.

“The Force Awakens” felt a little like it had a checklist to go through of things it felt it needed to do to keep fans happy. “Rogue One” makes similar references just because it feels right at the time. So it drops in a familiar minor character when we least expect it but does so with a clever spin. Then there are familiar lines that we expect and wait for and wait for and just when we think we’re not going to get it, it’s delivered.

And for the real nerds, there are things like once again using an old Grass Valley Switcher for the buttons on the Death Star.

Edwards also knows the “Star Wars” universe and takes great joy in revisiting it with a bigger budget and even higher end visual effects that Lucas had on the first “Star Wars” film. Edwards’ uses the frame well to give us a real sense of scale on the Empire and what it’s building. His first reveals of an Imperial Cruiser, an AT-AT, and of the Death Star itself are breathtakingly fun. It’s fun for us as viewers because it seems to give him great pleasure as well.

The story

For those who have not been following the “Star Wars” universe as closely as I have been, “Rogue One” comes just before “A New Hope” although it is not positioned as a prequel. The end of “Rogue One” could literally be cut into the beginning of “A New Hope,” and Edwards shows us how the tonal shift feels at that edit point.

Edwards explained at Star Wars Celebration last year that he wanted “Rogue One” to be a war film and that’s why he hired cinematographer Greig Fraser who had shot such gritty films as “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Killing Them Softly,” and “Foxcatcher.”

But this is a war film in the “Star Wars” universe. It’s not trying to be “Full Metal Jacket,” just a little grittier and dirtier and maybe just a touch more gray in tone than the other films in the franchise. The action sequences are often well-staged, especially when Yen's Chirrut Îmwe is involved. In scenes where characters are channeling the Force — even the dark side of it — the action is definitely impressive and fun.

Donnie Yen's Chirrut Îmwe takes out some stormtroopers in "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story."
LucasFilm Ltd.
Donnie Yen's Chirrut Îmwe takes out some stormtroopers in "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story."

Edwards helms this epic with more assurance and seeming personal touch than his previous outing on the recent American “Godzilla.” It seems to have taken him a little time or maybe just a project better suited to him to show some confidence. After all, he went straight from the half a million-dollar indie film “Monsters” to the $160 million budgeted “Godzilla.” That’s quite a leap. And the fact he fared as well as he did is impressive.

If you have not seen his earlier “Monsters,” I highly recommend checking it out. It serves up a refreshing take on the monster movie formula.

In terms of story, “Rogue One” can be easily be described in a sentence: The Rebellion decides to steal the plans for the Death Star in order to find the space station’s Achilles heel.

If you have seen "A New Hope," you essentially know how the story needs to end but you don't necessarily know the exact details. As with the previous “Star Wars” films we have a strong female character, this time Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso, a rebel in the making. She gets support from a diverse cast that includes Forest Whitaker, Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Donnie Yen (oh man does he get to kick some ass), Jiang Wen and Mads Mikkelsen. Although the plot is clear, the narrative is not as simply laid out as in “A New Hope” and its running time is slightly longer and feels it. That might be my only real complaint about the film. And the pair of CGI-created characters did give me a bit of that creepy uncanny valley feel — although the characters were well used and ultimately necessary.

Felicity Jones stars as Jyn Erso, a young woman whose family ties pull her into the rebellion in "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story."
LucasFilm Ltd.
Felicity Jones stars as Jyn Erso, a young woman whose family ties pull her into the rebellion in "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story."

Rebellions are built on hope

Although “Rogue One” wrapped shooting before the November election, Jyn’s speech about now being the time to fight and stand up for what you believe in couldn’t be more resonant or on the money. Take a listen to what she says about "condemning the galaxy to an eternity of submission."

Rogue One: Jyn rallies rebel alliance

I can see why Trump supporters felt the need to call for a boycott of the film and then had to manufacture a fake news story about “Rogue One” changing the ending to be anti-Trump in order to try and politicize the film and justify their outrage. But the irony is no one would have to change anything about the film to convey a message critical of the new president-elect because “Star Wars” from the first film has always been an allegory about fighting tyrannical leaders and repressive regimes. There is also a line about how a single fighter with a sharp stick (the Python fan in me is trying very hard to not say pointy stick) can cause a lot of trouble. Sorry, I did not take the usual critic notes during the film and write down the exact line, but I wanted to watch the film as a fan first. And that meant not looking away from the screen to jot down notes.

“Rogue One” (rated PG-13 for extended sequences of sci-fi violence and action) made me want to go home and immediately watch “A New Hope” and the pairing of the two was most satisfying. And my order of favorites is now "The Empire Strikes Back," A New Hope" and right on its heels "Rogue One" as my desert island "Star Wars" films. "Rogue One" left me feeling giddy with joy at seeing the “Star Wars” franchise expanded with such a genuine sense of affection and understanding for what made us fall in love with a galaxy far, far away.

Check out Cinema Junkie Podcast 53 all about geeky fan reactions to "The Force Awakens."

No Spoilers Move Review: 'Rogue One'